UR Tarana Burke Tickets Should Have Sold Out!

[*I’m working under the assumption that they didn’t sell out in comparison to Hasan Minaj]

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But they didn’t, and I can’t say I was entirely surprised.

Ms. Burke is the #blackgirlmagic fireball behind the #metoo movement—a movement that has been largely associated with the sexual harassment/assault nightmares of Hollywood actresses by the booger-faced ogre Harvey Wienstien.  Google him on your own time. Last Monday, she actually came to the University of Rochester Campus to speak.  Why is this so profound?  Well, number one: the University of Rochester is in the middle of nowhere. Number two: refer back to number one.  Number three: this campus was completely rocked by the sexual assault case concerning Brain and Cognitive science professors Celeste Kidd, Jessica Cantlon, and Florian Jaeger.  Both Kidd and Cantlon were listed in Time magazine Persons of the Year as “silence breakers.” Rightfully so, because the careers of these women were placed in jeopardy at the sexual whims of a man that was actively protected by the University.

Unfortunately, I was not on campus to really get a first hand observance of the campus dynamic, but I looked on through Facebook livestreams. I watched President Seligman utterly fail to placate or answer to the wrath of the student body.  I watched as he bumbled and weaseled with excellent bureaucratic vocabulary through reasonable demands. I watched clips of student protests, and I watched the steam rise from the heated chants in front of Wallis Hall.  I also watched the lack of follow through from these demonstrations, but that’s a blog for another day.  Never the less these on-campus happenings were reinforced by the disturbing events among the Hollywood elite that put the nations ear to the #metoo movement.

***

I’m kinda of sick of going around campus and people not knowing who  Tarana Burke is. People are more likely it riddle offactresses than they are to know who actually created the movement in the first place. But who’s to blame when even Time magazine didn’t even put her on the front cover.  But Taylor friggin Swift is over here taking up space. OKAY.Screen Shot 2018-02-09 at 2.41.21 PM

And when you go to the actual website of the “silence breakers” article, this is the first face you see:

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Rose McGowan looking distraught

You have to wait damn near 8 seconds before you even see Tarana Burkes face.  Am I being petty?

Yes, because I’m personally tired of people waiting till black women are dead and gone, or on the edge of death before they are ever acknowledged for the contributions they have made to this society.

The least that folks can do is put her on the cover for the movement she started and know who she is.  Okay, rant over…almost.

So I when I saw that Tarana Burke was coming to campus I was ecstatic.   I saw that that the talk started an 8 PM.  That was the same time that I got out of work, but I was determined—DE-TER-MINED to get there anyway.  Don’t get me wrong folks.  I was indeed late. But if you were the ticket holder at the entrance you saw the eagerness seeping out my eyes and my pores.  A good friend of mine (the one and only Naomi Rutagarama) had done her do diligence and saved me a seat in the third row, so  I came in looking like a ravaged nomad searching for an oasis in the desert. I apologize to the programmer who offered me a seat in the back to which I briskly breathed, “No. My friend is saving me a seat.  No.”  I was beside my myself.  When I finally found my seat, I sat down like:

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I am ready for the sermon!

***

“If you’re not happy about the climate here, you need to change that.  You have that power.”

-Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke’s speech was comprehensive and real. She embodied the activism that gives the #metoo movement the backbone to continue with or without the media attention.

She made it clear that it was important to know her beginnings with the concept of advocacy for women’s assault/healing.  It started with her as a youth worker and founder at JustBeInc. and her troubling interaction with a young girl named Heaven.  This interaction was the spark that got the gears turning towards developing #metoo in the first place. I highly highly encourage you to read the story for yourself.  It adds so much context and bolsters the depth to the social media hashtag.

As Tarana Burke continued to speak, I learned how important it was to work towards a vision no matter if anyone pays attention or not.  Tarana saw a need to create a space for women to see each other and recognize that they are not alone in a world that tolerates misogyny and rape culture. As she was continuing to shine her light through her work on the ground and eventually myspace and Twitter, it resonated with women of all walks of life and one of those women came to be Alyssa Milano.  Tarana was sure to clarify that Alyssa has never overstepped her bounds by claiming to be the gatekeeper of the #metoo movement, unlike some people (*cough, cough Rose McGowan).

Tarana wasn’t shy in emphasizing that the #metoo movement was a safe space for all, including (if not most of all) the transgender community.

Rose McGowan has no jurisdiction here, despite her little tantrum late January. Watch on your own time….or just wait for me to write a blog post about it.

Any way, back to the important things.  Tarana wasn’t looking for fame and recognition, but when Alyssa Milana happened upon Tarana’s movement on Twitter, she gave credit where credit was due.  As a result Tarana Burke has been interviewed, paraded on the Golden Globes, and has even been given a book deal.  She has continued to do her good work by developing online resources and toolkits for intentional community healing.  Some might say, all of her prolonged hard work is starting to pay off, but Tarana said it was far from over.

This is when it got real, folks.  Tarana held nothing back when addressing the failure of the University of Rochester to do its part in protecting its students:

This is a community, obviously.  I wanna say something to this room that I hope resonates through this campus and I feel like hasn’t been said directly: You are worthy of and deserve protection and safety. Period.  And when you enroll in a school one of the top priorities should be to provide that protection and safety, period.

She had taken the time to read some of the the independent report and she was sorely disappointed.  She identified a warp in the moral compass and lack of accountability on this campus, and she wasn’t wrong.  The administration does lack accountability concerning this case, and its impact on UR students.  But she didn’t stop there, she encouraged and charged us all with the task of finding ways to allow healing to permeate throughout this campus. What she described was collective action—a coming together of individuals that actively enact solutions that emphasize and reinforce procedures, policy, anything that promotes security and protection for everyone. Healing can be shared.

***

The protests that fired off on this campus first semester, was a start.  The mobilization of the Meliora Movement  was a positive attempt, and I say attempt because its mission         ( “Movement calling for university accountability, policy improvements, and student representation on decision-making boards. Reclaiming Meliora.”) can not come to any real traction unless we are first applying that accountability to ourselves, and what we have within our power to influence.  It’s not enough to be angry.  After the anger has waned, the injustice still stands.  I could only hope that the individuals that had participated in the righteous anger of first semester, took the time to attend this talk.

The talk ended with Tarana giving us all the honesty, flair (honestly, check out the link she is stylin’ profilin’ for real), and #blackgirlmagic the room could handle and then she took questions.  She stayed on the stage a little bit afterwards to take hugs and pictures.  I pitifully looked on, regretting I didn’t charge the stage earlier.  But alas! as Naomi and I were exiting towards the tunnel towards Wilco, I spotted her coming my way.  I eagerly waited at the doorway and as she passed, she saw me. She shook my hand and gave me the deepest hug…I had been blessed.

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I wistfully looked after her, as she answered to the buzzing swarm of students, coordinators, and security.  What a night.

Special thanks to Naomi Rutagarama for being the supporter and sounding board of this blog post! Thanks friend 🙂

 

 

Race-Baiter: Don’t You Have Anything Else to Talk About?

If only I would have known that being a poorly spoken, orange peel complexioned, unstable yt person would have granted me the right to slew absolute nonsense without consequence, I suppose I’d be changing up my skin care routine…definitely wouldn’t even have considered going to school at all. Maybe me talking about race would actually have some weight.  People would be so dazzled by my whiteness and wealth they wouldn’t mind so much because #45 can literally disparage an entire immigrant population as rapists and his voter base is just like:

“mArtHa, hE’s nOt TalKing aBoUT rAcE aT alL, rIgHT?”

“No, He’S jUst bEinG rEAl, JoE. I mEaN it cOulD bE anYoNE.  It JuSt hAppEnS tO bE tHoSe MeXicaNS.”

“YeA. JuSt MExicAns. No RaCE taLK. JuSt MexIcANs.”

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k, martha and joe.

I was labeled a race-baiter way back in high school because I clapped back when some kid said,”I think we should bring back the slave trade.”  Call me crazy.  Call me insane.  I thought it was out of line.  I still do.

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As I’ve gotten older, it hasn’t really gotten better.

Just before writing my last blog post,  My friend told me that in her anthro course centered on the concept of Whiteness,  a couple of her yt classmates said something along the lines of: “It’s really unfortunate that black people hold onto slavery like that, like its not helping them at all.  It’s just holding them back.”  When my friend told me this, it only served to fuel my fire at the time.

I spat out, “I like how they feel like us acknowledging slavery, is what’s holding us back…yep, that’s what it is.”

It’s like someone left historical shattered glass in the hallway and they’re personally offended because a few people took the time to even acknowledge the mess in the first place.

Them:

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IF yOu jusT WAlkEd oN lIkE eVErYoNE ElsE yOU WouLDn’T hAvE So mAnY iSsUes.  iT’s jUSt bRoKeN sHardS oF glAsS. I sORta fEeL liKe YUuR WaLKinG oN It oN puRpOSe. YoU sHoULd sToP dOiNG tHaT…

(throws an empty wine glass on the ground)

Yeah it would be nice if I could ignore the entire mess of being the child of an enslaved population/minority.  But it finds its way into my skin, my voice, and uhhhhhhhhhh anytime I’m trying to succeed.  L-O-L am I right?

I have been through a few unhealthy relationships, and if you’ve ever been gaslighted before, you’ll know that there’s been times where you actually end up questioning if the pain you felt was really that bad. You’re bold-face looking that person in the eye and they’re telling you how irrational you are and how misled you are and how you completely misunderstood everything.  You briefly wonder, “Maybe it didn’t really happen that way…maybe they’re whit–I mean, right. it wasn’t that terrible…am I simply being angry for no reason?”  I ask myself the last question a lot actually.  And sometimes when I happen to be in a room full of pale faces (and honestly, sometimes brown faces), I brace myself for that feeling again and again.

Am I angry for no reason?  I am not.  Whenever I talk about slavery or race or history for that matter, it isn’t because I like stepping on shards of glass in my free time. It’s because it’s not over.  It’s because I feel the lack of accountability in people, and I want someone to recognize…to confirm that they are seeing what I’m seeing.  It sucks to get racially gaslighted man. And yeah, I get pissed off sometimes because it  feels like I’m yelling into the void and that nobody really cares.  But here I am!

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Cheers.

To My White Profs: My History Is Not a F****ing Exception

Picture this: I’m in this course called Problems of Western Civilization and the topic for the day is slavery. The prompt he assigned before class required that we expand on the issues that touched our lived experience in some way or another. Of course I had a few choice things to say in my response paper for this class, but I also wrote about censorship and witch-hunting–phenomena I posited were still related to slavery.  You can read it here.

When the time came for discussion, my prof started off with talking about the Greeks. He’s an older man.  White haired.  Wears flamboyant socks. Talks like he belongs in that Netflix movie The Meyerowitz Stories with Adam Sandler.  Talks like he could flip a quarter and ask for a shoe shine. Grandpa-lookin guy.

He says something to the effect of: “Yeah the Greeks were famed for their intellect, yet they owned slaves in their society.  A lot of people don’t know this.  Seems like slavery has always existed hasn’t it Brown?”

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I’m Brown.  I knew we was gonna fight.  With me being one of two black women in the class, there wasn’t much of an option.  I mean, I just can’t stand for bullshit, doesn’t sit well with me.  I could care less how old you are.  You know I would never want to allow my silence to translate into being complicit like some folks *cough, cough…*

Of course I agreed that slavery had always existed, but that the slavery that had touched my life was that good ol’ American matrilineal human chattel slavery.  I would have gone on with the supports in my paper, but like a true white person, he never referenced my paper or facts for that matter…  This man never asked how I thought censorship and witch-hunting were related.

But suddenly before my very eyes he conveniently became Jewish!  I found myself having to juggle the concept of the Holocaust alongside my defense of American slavery having been one of the worst forms of slavery in history because the consequences have yet to be resolved.

“I can say, as a Jewish man, who have talked to other Jewish folks that the Holocaust was a terrible event, among many terrible events–there’s no need to say what was worse, theres not need to pose the competition …”

Me:

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Thats that bullshit I was talking about earlier. It was smeared on so thiccccc.  The fact that I have to justify the relevance of what has already happened and what is still happening to a White man (Jewish upon convenience), simply proves my point.  Without any sort of critical analysis of my position, without having the respect to reference what I had written, I had to stand on a stage trying to spell it out for this man.

WhY wOuLdn’T i jUst uNdeRsTanD thAt eVEntS jUsT hApPEnEd wIthiN hIsTOry anD ThAt slAveRy wAs JUst oNe Of ThOsE thIngS tHAt haPpEnED beFoRe aNd iT evEn HapPEned tO whIte peOpLe aNd JEwiSh pEoPLe….wHY cAn’t i jUsT unDeRstAND tHaT….

Hmmmm… last time I checked no one is asking for Jewish people go back to building pyramids.  Last time I checked there’s no one drop rule for Jewish people or the religion. Last time I checked the United States government is currently responsible for supplying fiscal and weapon support for the Israeli state.  To be completely honest, I still can not tell Jewish people a part from regular ass white people, but okay…where are my reparations though?

He said I was localizing the discussion too much.

So I say, “Sir, I can’t even go to Northern Ireland (outside of the United States) because  I could face harassment as a person of color.  How is it that my experience (although American) is similarly iterated all over the globe…South America, the islands, Europe…”

I wasn’t letting him speak, he said.  He was trying to tell me what slavery was, because I clearly I didn’t have a clue.

Me:

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Between the two of us, the class time was soaked up.  When class ended I was very resigned, exhausted, and disappointed.  I thought that a discussion about slavery could actually have been critical and insightful, without having to be watered down and pitted against other tragedies.  And don’t get me wrong folks, I wholeheartedly agree that the Holocaust was one of the most satanic historical events. Families were separated, millions of lives were lost.  Innocent children were slain.  I will never trivialize that.  But the Holocaust shouldn’t be used as a gag when people of color bring up slavery and/or colonialism in the West.  Because if you have to bring up the Holocaust to nullify the potency of slavery, then you’re dealing with some DEEP COGNITIVE DISSONANCE my friend.  Because I could also argue that having a bunch of pale strangers wash up and invade  your continent, whilst simultaneously spreading disease, blood shed, and pollution might be a close 1st for an equally satanic travesty.  But that serves no one.  Its not constructive and it only serves to silence people instead of listening to what the fuck they have to say.  So stahp it. Stop whitewashing the humanities and then act surprised when a person like me pops up telling you its bullshit.  Just stop.

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You wanna know why white folks wanna call the global experiences and history of so many minorities  an exception instead of the rule? because they (sub)consciously know that so much of their history is trash, volatile, and morally reprehensible.  If the effects of something people like you created has global consequences(talkin to you Bob, Becky, and Troy), its not a fucking exception, it’s a rule.  So it’s not unnecessary when I bring it up.  Class dismissed.  I said what I said.

Part 4: Up for a Challenge

We had weathered the car ride together, and I learned that Andi had recently arrived from Sziget, Hungary eight months ago. She would be the new employee for Care2Travel, and she was shadowing Peter that day to learn the ropes. She had briefly hinted that she was just settling in and she expected challenges in making friends—although they were not challenges that I could directly relate to. We were able to find some wooden benches and after introducing my phone-recording device, and my camera we lost no time digging into the subject further. Continue reading

Part 3: A Smile Worth Searching For

ANGI

I spotted this Angi only because I happened to be looking for another Angi that I couldn’t find at the time. Regardless Angi’s big, brown downcast eyes got my attention. I sensed a voice worth lending an ear to for a little while. She was one of the few children that did not find a cell phone enchanting at all, which helped to lessen distractions during out chat. Continue reading